Improving your contact center experience is not a mystery or some kind of ornate science.
In fact, there are several methodical steps you can take right now to upgrade your contact center experience today.
1. Offer Automatic Callbacks
An automatic callback is a feature of an interactive voice response system (IVR) that gives customers the option to be called back at a later time rather than having to wait on hold and be serenaded by knock-off elevator tunes.
Automatic callbacks allow customers to keep their place in the phone queue and let the system call them back automatically when it’s their turn and an agent becomes available. In some ways, they’re still on hold, but this way allows people to put down their phones and carry on with their day.
Additionally, some of the more advanced IVR systems have the option to schedule an appointment, which means callers can select times when they know they’ll be available to receive a call. Depending on the automatic callback system, some contact centers will offer this solution to customers when the hold time exceeds a certain threshold, such as 10 minutes after the initial call has been made.
1.1 Benefits of automatic callbacks
Automatic callbacks improve the customer experience primarily because they reduce the idle time that callers have to endure before speaking to a human agent. Some of the secondary benefits are as follows:
They improve cost and efficiency
Automatic callbacks lower contact center costs due to better-managed call volumes. This helps prevent understaffing, which is one of the main culprits behind callers being put on hold for less reasonable amounts of time (such as more than 30 minutes).
If the system has the added capability of automatic dialing, the overall performance and effectiveness of the contact center can also improve. In this case, a caller gets connected to the most appropriate agent for the job with all the necessary experience and knowledge to respond to the user’s inquiry in a professional and timely manner.
They enhance the customer experience
An IVR system packed with the functionality of automatic callbacks is primed to improve the customer experience since it gives callers a choice while respecting their time. In turn, this may influence more customers to remain loyal to the company or brand.
They offer your agents ample room to grow
Consumers prefer to have their inquiries answered immediately rather than having to wait in the queue, but this can be hard to pull off because of a lack of agents, resources, or both.
Automatic callbacks provide callers with alternative means to reach your company and (if programmed correctly) inform them of the current waiting times until an agent becomes available. This reduces the friction between customers and agents and lowers the probability of someone behaving irately towards an agent due to a poor customer experience.
2. Implement a Skill-Based Routing Strategy
Skill-based routing (also known as skill-based distribution) is a type of call routing that assigns customers to specific agents who are best equipped to handle their inquiry, filtering for things like language preferences, skills, knowledge, experience, and familiarity with the caller’s concerns.
A low-hanging example of skill-based routing is when French-speaking customers are automatically assigned to agents who speak French.
Apart from the benefits that it brings, skill-based routing is also good for what it takes away—namely, many situations where customers have to engage with agents who aren’t able to assist them properly. Ultimately, this aims to reduce the overall likelihood of frustrating interactions for both parties.
2.1 Benefits of skill-based routing
The most obvious benefits of skill-based distribution have to do with actual customer interactions, but it can also bring a lot more to your business.
It improves the skills of your employees
Professional contact center agents are on the lookout for new ways to improve their skills and knowledge base in lieu of how quickly the industry evolves with new tools and automations.
Skill-based distribution can help your agents acquire new skills, effectively becoming the pillars on which you can base your brand’s image. In turn, this will further enhance the expertise of your employees and strengthen your brand’s image as a competent, consistent, and innovative employer.
It increases the number of first-call resolutions
First-call resolution (FCR) is an important metric in the contact center experience because it involves the ability, expertise, and situational awareness of an agent to resolve a given inquiry the first time a caller contacts the center. By employing skill-based routing, calls are sent to agents best adapted to solve particular customer concerns, increasing the probability of solving those issues on the spot.
It makes your agents more productive
Skill-based routing can play a major role in improving agent performance across the board. By reducing the time it takes for a single agent to come up with a solution to a customer’s concern, agents can assist more callers in the same amount of time, offering better and more applicable solutions.
3. Simplify Chatbot Menus
A chatbot is a type of computer software that communicates with users through chat, voice messages, images, and illustrations. Typically, a modern chatbot is almost always backed up by some sort of a large language model (LLM) to provide better and more comprehensive answers for customers.
Additionally, a chatbot can also be rule-based instead of being powered by AI. In this case, it can direct users to the correct web page or even connect them to a contact center agent if any are available. The downside of non-AI agents is how they’re constricted by existing rules—meaning the chatbot won’t be able to respond to a unique inquiry appropriately if a developer hasn’t programmed it for that particular functionality.
3.1 Benefits of chatbots
Utilizing advanced chatbots can have many positive ripple effects across your company.
They improve the availability of your agents
Availability is one of the most important pieces in the modern customer service puzzle. If you’re dealing with clients from all over the world, for example, it’s likely that some of them will try to contact your business outside of your regular working hours. If you want to be competitive, you simply can’t let this slide by and wait until your team is back online.
Unless the server itself goes down unexpectedly, AI-powered chatbots are available 24 hours, seven days a week. This improves the accessibility of your brand and leads to happier customers.
They offer a more personalized experience
A chatbot, especially an AI-based one, can sift through live caller information and provide a personalized service that’s unique to them—and it can assign a human agent to take over. Most popular AI chatbots are programmed to access data securely, thereby eliminating the need for additional privacy concerns from the perspective of callers. Just remember that this doesn’t make them 100% immune to data breaches and hacks.
They simplify the communication process
Chatbots can enhance the interaction between your business and your customers and reduce the friction that can arise if a frustrated consumer encounters an underprepared agent.
Bouncing around from one agent to the next often results in a disjointed experience for the customer and confusion on the part of employees. A chatbot can eliminate this simply by offering predetermined answers to some of the most common questions customers might have—or generating new, factual answers depending on the customer’s inquiry and the chatbot’s capabilities.
3.2 How to simplify chatbot menus
Chatbots and other virtual assistants are only as useful as their most complicated features. In other words, if people can’t access or don’t understand a chatbot’s capabilities well enough to use them, it doesn’t really matter how advanced they might be.
Simplifying a chatbot—and, by extension, its menus—boils down to three core guidelines.
Have the right professionals build the bot from the beginning
If you want to build an in-house chatbot from scratch, it’s important to find the right people for the job. If you don’t have the budget to build your digital assistant, you can try reaching out to companies that offer automated customer service experiences (like Twilio Studio) and talk through the pros and cons of their service.
Program answers to the most common customer questions
Even without a chatbot, your contact center should already have a dedicated FAQ page that addresses the most common customer inquiries, as well as their respective answers.
Assuming you’re not building a proprietary AI chatbot, you can use your existing FAQ list to serve as the foundation for powering your new digital assistant. If you don’t have an existing FAQ, perform an internal analysis of your business and note down the most common questions that appear repeatedly during your audit. This can help you provide appropriate answers that address them quickly and efficiently.
Use a simple syntax and precise answers
Program your digital assistant to offer solutions in clear language without relying on jargon or a lot of technical information. To make sure your chatbot isn’t confusing your customers, run the answers through a readability test and adjust the output until you’re happy with the outcome.
4. Streamline Call Flows
Call flows are sequences of steps, interactions, and responses that take place between the customers and your contact center agents—from the moment the call starts up until its conclusion.
You can think of call flows as hierarchical trees that branch out in multiple directions. Each branch denotes how inbound calls are handled in your contact center, how your customers are served by your agents, what happens when a customer tries to access your IVR menu outside of your regular working hours, and how calls are screened and queued.
Call flows should be clearly mapped, documented, and readily accessible so your agents can handle incoming calls to the best of their abilities. By consulting these pre-made maps, they can better prepare themselves instead of facing customer concerns.
4.1 Benefits of streamlined call flows
More than half of customers still prefer phone support over other customer service channels when choosing to interact with a business. Meanwhile, a well-made and streamlined call flow is vital in offering an optimal customer service experience in more ways than one.
Increased first-call resolutions
Once again, when customers are routed to the most qualified agents to resolve the caller’s specific issues, the agent is empowered to fix them immediately. This has a domino effect that can make the customer satisfied while also eliminating the need for follow-up calls, emails, or other forms of interaction.
Reduced operational costs
Streamlined call flows can lead to better incoming call volume management, more optimized wait times for customers, improved agent expertise, and boosted contact center metrics (like (CSAT, FCR, and average handle time). All of these factors can contribute to reducing the operational costs of your contact center so you can allocate those funds elsewhere and grow your business.
Higher overall customer satisfaction
Being unable to reach a live agent after waiting on hold for over 20 minutes can be a frustrating experience, but with a streamlined call flow that improves the availability of your agents, callers can get connected much sooner.
Likewise, leveraging well-made call flow roadmaps also empowers your agents to offer more personalized help, which can ultimately improve how your customers feel about your brand’s customer service arm.
5. Offer Deeper Customer Self-Service Options
Self-service is an integral part of any contact center experience because it allows customers to identify their own issues and seek out solutions without needing the assistance of your agents.
Activities that fall under the banner of customer self-service include searching for answers to frequently asked questions, scouring a company’s online knowledge base for troubleshooting, and actively posting in forums with other customers of the same product or service. It can also include automated options for initiating returns, exchanges, and refunds.
5.1 Benefits of a deeper customer self-service
Along with offering a service portal, hosting a comprehensive database of the most common customer concerns, issues, tips, and solutions can help your business in many different ways.
It leads to an increase in sales
It’s been estimated that more than half of potential customers would rather abandon their carts than open a customer service ticket. This means that if they can’t find a quick answer to quell their doubts about an upcoming purchase, they may not follow through on buying the product or service.
Inversely, a comprehensive self-service database can help your business mitigate this problem by offering quicker access to emerging customer issues, increasing your chances of closing out a sale.
It positively augments the customer experience
When possible, customers prefer to solve their own problems as opposed to seeking out help from a customer service agent. If you can structure your business in a way that allows customers to answer their own questions as often as possible, this can positively reflect on the overall customer experience and convert one-time buyers to recurring patrons.
It leads to a happier workforce
It’s tough out there for a contact center agent.
Disgruntled customer service managers have reported that a whopping 40% of all customer service requests are mind-numbingly boring and repetitive. An exhaustive self-service knowledge base is practically guaranteed to reduce the number of repetitive customer tickets, effectively leading to happier staff and freeing up your agents to work on more serious requests.
5.2 How to extend your self-service capabilities
There are a couple of different approaches to building, maintaining, and extending your self-service experience for existing and future customers.
Create an extensive knowledge base
A knowledge base refers to a hub of articles, tutorials, and other online resources that your visitors can access for information about your business and products. It’s useful for providing updates on existing issues, and it’s also a good place to gain credibility by participating in relevant industry conversations.
Automate your self-service hubs
You can combine existing automation tools with your self-service hubs to offer a more streamlined customer service experience and reduce the bottleneck that often emerges as the result of understaffing or agent unavailability.
Create a forum or an open community
Sometimes it’s helpful to let customers share their opinions about your products and services, offering help amongst themselves through comments, posts, and even extensive step-by-step guides.
You can achieve this by creating a public forum that welcomes everyone who wants to contribute as long as they’re not breaking any pre-established community guidelines.
6. Develop Effective Omnichannel Support
Customers will form a more positive opinion of your brand when they can reach out to your customer center through a variety of different channels, including email, phone, and live chat.
Currently, voice stands out as the most dominant channel (especially when complex issues are involved), but you should also consider supporting your customers with an omnichannel contact center as well. This will create a unified, speedy, and streamlined customer experience across all points of contact in your business.
6.1 Benefits of omnichannel support
An omnichannel contact center synchronizes customer communications across all existing channels through internal integrations, AI, or a combination of both to provide a seamless customer experience for the end user.
Besides your customers, omnichannel support can also provide a number of benefits for your company.
It helps your business build a loyal customer base
Users who experience good customer service are more likely to become recurring patrons. On the flip side, consumers are more likely to sever ties with a business after just one bad customer experience. An omnichannel contact center strategy leads to a better customer experience, indirectly helping with your sales and retention plans as well.
It leads to improved contact center KPIs
Key performance indicators are a collection of different metrics that help your business better define your progress compared to your long-term goals and strategies. Trying out an omnichannel approach is a safe way to improve your KPIs incrementally and optimize your customer service systems in ways that can lead to natural growth.
It helps you better understand the customer’s journey
The customer’s journey is a set of steps your users have to take to buy a product or resolve an inquiry whenever they interact with your business. To provide an exceptional service, you need to have a thorough understanding of how and why a customer would access your communications channels—from the first to the final step.
With a carefully integrated omnichannel system, you can track your customer’s entire path, analyze their pain points, and improve your service to address any bottlenecks that might appear during their journey.
7. Motivate Your Agents
Incentivizing and rewarding your top-performing agents can increase their productivity and lead to a significant boost in company morale across multiple departments.
Some of the motivational programs you can use to motivate your agents include:
- Gamification: This is a strategy that employs (hopefully) friendly competition and engaging activities to achieve higher productivity outcomes in exchange for other incentives—such as clearing 15 tickets per day to collect daily, weekly, and monthly rewards.
- Performance bonuses: Your agents need to feel like their voice is being heard and that their dedication to your business is appreciated. A well-deserved monetary reward is one way to show your confidence in their performance and abilities.
- SMART goals: The SMART strategy refers to setting up specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals to avoid falling into the trap of unrealistic, generic, or unclear incentives. In other words, agents have an easier time following clearly stated, smaller objectives in the short term than loose, lofty objectives in the long term.
7.1 Benefits of a motivated workforce
Highly motivated contact center agents will often cultivate an optimistic working environment, which can further lead to more happy customers and a positive impact on your company’s revenue.
Some of the other benefits include the following:
It helps to reduce employee turnover
Dealing with people’s concerns is not an easy task, so it often has a taxing effect on front-line employees who face them every day. Finding ways to increase motivation can lower the stress levels of your agents, thereby fending off employee burnout and maintaining a healthy workforce retention rate.
It leads to a lower average handle time
A reduction in the average handle time (AHT) means your agents will spend less time on each individual call, and that means they can handle more customer requests in the same amount of time. This leads to greater agent productivity and more efficient use of your company’s staffing resources.
It leads to an increase in internal brand loyalty
Internal branding is a very important concept that determines how your employees view your company from inside your ranks—which often leaks to the outside world as well. Thus, highly satisfied employees can act like brand ambassadors both on and off the clock.
Regardless of size, number of employees, or long-term strategies, every business center can strive for and achieve an elevated contact center experience.
Remember, providing a better experience for your customers will often result in (or require) a better experience for your employees as well. That said, if you can motivate your agents to become more productive, it will ensure happier customers across the board—and pay dividends in the long run.
Check out our guide on the top VoIP service providers of 2024 for more ways to equip your contact center with the best tools and services out there today.